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Teaching Excellence Program receives recognition, grant from Mellon Foundation

This past summer, Lewis & Clark College received a $705,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the launching of a Teaching Excellence Program (TEP). This program will foster collaborations among faculty and encourage them to refine and share their teaching practices with fellow colleagues.

Professor of Psychology Jerusha Detweiler-Bedell, who served as LC’s Distinguished Teaching Consultant from 2013-2015, will now serve as the director of the Teaching Excellence Program. During her time as the 2014-2015 Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Detweiler-Bedell realized that there was an unmet need among faculty: professors wanted to learn more from one another about teaching, but there was no formal peer-to-peer mentoring system.

According to Detweiler-Bedell, the TEP is designed to promote excellence in teaching by providing all professors — tenured, tenure-track, visiting, and adjunct — with the support they need to enhance student learning as well as to cultivate their own sense of efficacy in the classroom.

“We are lucky to be at an institution already committed to the importance of teaching, where the faculty care very deeply about their effectiveness in the classroom,” Detweiler-Bedell said. “But until now, the College hasn’t had a program that brings together resources and opportunities directly aimed at disseminating best practices in pedagogy. TEP is designed to bring faculty together – across all disciplines and throughout their careers – to discuss and apply teaching techniques that are engaging, inclusive, and innovative.

There are three main components of the grant. One is to offer faculty-to-faculty peer support in the classroom. As of now, there are two teaching consultants and four Pedagogy Fellows. Associate Professor of French and Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures Molly Robinson Kelly is one of the Distinguished Teaching Consultants along with Detweiler-Bedell. The first cohort of Pedagogy Fellows includes Associate Professors Paul Allen of Mathematics, Ann Bentley of Chemistry, Rachel Cole of English and Benjamin Westervelt of History. The goal is to increase the number of faculty trained in peer observation and support in the classroom.

Cole is excited about the TEP’s emphasis on classroom observation.

“I discuss pedagogy with my colleagues every day, but I almost never get to see other people teach,” Cole said. “I’m looking forward to learning by observing my colleagues and comparing their practices with my own.”

Allen hopes the TEP discussions and workshops will improve his teaching methods.

“[I want] to learn to think more systematically about students’ classroom experiences at LC,” Allen said, “More broadly, I hope that the program sparks a larger conversation about teaching and pedagogy on our campus.”

Another component of the grant is to provide the opportunity to learn and discuss the best practices of various teaching techniques. LC strives to create inclusive classrooms in order to maximize conditions for student learning. The last component is support for implementing and sharing teaching innovations. The grant will provide the resources for LC faculty to attend regional and national conferences on pedagogy as well as attend on-campus teaching workshops. Bi-monthly TEP pedagogy lunches are also a place for professors to discuss challenges and opportunities in the classroom.

An overarching goal of TEP is to support faculty when trying new concepts and teaching approaches in the classroom. The faculty is excited to establish this new mentoring system, and hopes new discoveries will be created and shared.

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